5-Veg curry

It’s been a while since I last blogged. Since starting a new job, I’ve had to get used to the rhythms of working life. My hours and overtime have clocked up against my motivation to cook and bake anything new.

But food will prevail, as it always does. On my last day off, I baked Aine Carlin’s fudgy brownies from her book Keep it Vegan, which were a hit. Later on, dinner was an easy improvised curry, a great one for leaving ticking on the cooker while you get on with other things.

The veg used here can easily be swapped for others, although cauliflower and potato are one of my all-time favourite combinations.

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To make this curry for two, you’ll need:

  • one large onion
  • one green chilli
  • half a thumb-sized piece of ginger
  • one clove of garlic
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp ground fenugreek
  • 1/2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • half a head of cauliflower
  • 5 or 6 small potatoes
  • 100g green beans
  • 100g curly kale
  • juice of half a lemon
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • naan bread (check for milk-free!) or brown rice (if you’ve not yet been able to find vegan naan).

Begin by roughly chopping the onion, and finely chopping the garlic and green chilli. Keep the seeds if desired. Scrape away the skin of the ginger with a teaspoon, before grating.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large heavy-bottomed pan. Fry the onions on a medium heat until they begin to brown. Add ginger, garlic, and chilli, and fry for one minute, moving around to prevent burning. Add the spices, cook for a minute, then add tomato puree and mix well.

Pour in the chopped tomatoes, and simmer for five minutes while you prepare the vegetables. Strip away the cauliflower leaves, chop in half, and break into florets. Cut the potatoes into small pieces (not too small – without the skin, they’ll turn to mush.)

Add the cauliflower and potato to the sauce with 200ml water. Put the lid on and cook for thirty minutes, until the veg begins to soften. Meanwhile, trim and halve the beans and wash the kale.

Put in the rest of the vegetables, with the juice of half a lemon, and season well. Cook for another ten minutes. When everything is tender, remove from the heat and serve with naan bread or rice. Enjoy!

 

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Corn bean chilli

As busy people, we don’t all have time to cook a balanced meal every evening. In my case, I don’t want to do anything more than boil pasta when I get in from work. How to get round this? Be organised! On your days off, cook extra portions to save for later. Plan quick and low-prep meals. Putting in a bit of effort in advance will save you time and stress later.

I adopt this technique as much as I can – although when you’re cooking for yourself, it’s much easier. This chilli is an excellent bulk-batch meal, as it’s easy to make, freezes well, and tastes really good. I’ve pared it back significantly, adding sweetcorn to bulk it out. It’s delicious, and exactly the sort of meal you want to come home to.

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Corn & bean chilli, served with spinach and potatoes

To serve three, you’ll need:

  • one brown onion
  • two cloves of garlic
  • tbsp tomato puree
  • tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • one and a half tins of kidney beans
  • 250g sweetcorn, fresh or frozen
  • salt and pepper
  • one lime.

Begin by finely chopping the onion. Cook gently for ten minutes, stirring regularly. Add finely chopped garlic, and cook over a moderate heat for another minute. Add the smoked paprika, cumin, and cayenne pepper, cook for one minute, and squeeze in the tomato puree. Stir until everything is well combined.

Pour in the chopped tomatoes and simmer for ten minutes.

Set a pan of rice or quinoa to cook in a steamer (or potatoes, if you wish), with the sweetcorn overhead. Add the kidney beans to the chilli and simmer for another ten minutes. Finally, tip in the cooked sweetcorn and season generously. Squeeze in the juice of half a lime.

Serve the chilli over your chosen grain, perhaps with sliced avocado and chopped coriander. Put leftovers into plastic containers, and put in the fridge or freezer for when you need it most!

Best tomato pasta sauce

Looking for an easy and incredible pasta sauce recipe? Look no further.

I found this gem in my treasure trove of magazine recipe clippings, originally from The Times Saturday Magazine, and I thought it just had to be shared. As it’s pretty tomato-dense, it’s got a very intense flavour, although a few nuanced additions do well to enhance it. I followed the method below, making alterations to serve one less person.

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To serve four, you’ll need:

  • 1kg vine-ripened tomatoes. Yes, that’s a lot, but you get out what you put in. Make sure they are of a good quality, too – the difference between imported tomatoes and local, seasonal varieties is vast.
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 unwaxed lemon
  • Dried chilli flakes
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Half a bunch of fresh basil
  • Wholewheat spaghetti.

Begin preheating the oven to gas mark 8, or 230C. Roughly chop the tomatoes, peel and crush the garlic, and zest the lemon. Place everything in a roasting tin, with 2tbsp of the olive oil, and plenty of salt and pepper. Roast for 45 minutes – the tomatoes ought to be browned, and there will be a layer of thick juices lying at the bottom.

Transfer everything to a large bowl, add chopped basil, and use a hand blender to puree into a smooth sauce. (You can also use a food processor for this.) Add seasoning if needed, before serving with pasta. This is absolutely delicious, and a perfect sauce to have on hand in the freezer for quick dinner fixes.

 

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Red lentil, spinach, and green bean curry

I’ve mentioned previously my love for a well-flavoured daal, specifically those cooked with coconut milk, for a delicious balance of earthy spice.  A week on from my last batch cook of this godly stuff, I had the dahl cravings again, but decided to satiate them in a novel way: red lentil curry.

In another note, I come from a multicultural town where you can often smell south Asian cuisine as you wander the streets at dinner time; and the strongest of these scents I’ve finally identified, after using it in my own food. Fenugreek is potent stuff, seeming to cling to the very air the morning after you’ve cooked with it. But it adds another taste to curries, one which is hard to describe; suffice to say its powerful smell is easy to tolerate once you’ve tasted the outcome.

Now, I don’t pretend to be an expert at all in any culture of cooking. I just like to play about with different flavours and foods – and while this recipe may fall short of a more ‘authentic’ version, it did the job for me – hearty, healthy, and flavourful.

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For two generous portions, you’ll need:

  • one onion
  • two cloves of garlic
  • thumb-sized piece of ginger
  • one red chilli
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/2 each tsp ground cumin and ground coriander
  • 1/3 tsp ground fenugreek
  • 1/4 tsp ground turmeric
  • 120g dried red lentils
  • 100g green beans
  • 100g baby spinach
  • tin of chopped tomatoes

Begin by rinsing the lentils well, and setting to cook for half an hour while you prepare the curry base.

Finely chop the onion, garlic, ginger and chilli. Fry the onion gently in oil for five – ten minutes, or until softened. Put the mustard seeds in a dry frying pan on a medium heat, and cook until you hear them begin to pop. Add garlic, ginger, and chilli to the onions and fry for another minute, adding more oil if needed. Then, tip in all the spices and cook for a minute, stirring well.

Pour in the chopped tomatoes with 50ml of water, stir, and leave to simmer fairly vigorously for around twenty-five minutes. Meanwhile, get a pan of brown rice boiling. Trim and halve the green beans before adding to the rice and cooking for eight minutes, before setting aside. Drain the lentils.

Shortly before the rice is cooked, begin adding the spinach to the curry in handfuls. Afterwards, stir through the beans and the lentils, seasoning well with salt and pepper. Serve the curry with the rice and enjoy.

Sweet courgette pasta sauce

Sometimes, things we put little thought into end up turning out well. Think spontaneous trips, impetuous decisions, and the undeliberate decision to go out for dinner. Although I am generally not at all a person to act on impulse, I can occasionally throw together a tasty meal with little planning or thought, as this recipe shows. The tomato puree, sugar and balsamic vinegar bring together a lovely sweet sauce, mimicking the variety of expensive organic tomato we can never justify buying in the supermarket.

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(Those unappetising chunks lining the bowl’s perimeter are Cauldron’s vegan sausages – in my opinion, the most superior veggie sausage on the market. They aren’t meaty, but soft and beany – so perfect for anyone who prefers a beanburger over their soy protein mockmeat.)

To serve two, you’ll need:

  • one red onion
  • two cloves of garlic
  • one small carrot
  • one large courgette
  • half a bag of kale
  • tin of chopped tomatoes
  • tomato puree
  • dried rosemary and oregano
  • dried chilli flakes
  • balsamic vinegar
  • sugar

Begin by roughly chopping the onion and leaving to cook gently for ten minutes. Finely chop the carrot and add to the pan. After these ten minutes, add sliced garlic. (To remove the skins easily, shake each clove in a jam jar before peeling.) Cook for a few minutes.

Add a tbsp of tomato puree and stir well to incorporate. Finely slice the courgette and put in the pan. Tip in the chopped tomatoes, with a glug of balsamic vinegar, two pinches each of the dried rosemary and oregano, two pinches of sugar, and a tsp of chilli flakes. Stir again, and leave to simmer for twenty-five minutes, or until the courgette is tender and the sauce well-reduced.

Meanwhile, set a pan of fusilli to cook. I also steamed a few handfuls of kale, seasoned with lemon juice, salt and pepper. Serve the pasta with the sauce, and sprinkle with nutritional yeast.

Roasted red pepper & tomato sauce

Stir-in pasta sauces are both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, they cut down cooking time by at least 70% and put a dinner on the table, stat. On the other hand, they discourage folk from making their own more delicious, fresher, and nutritious sauces. Aside from the standard chopped tomatoes, onion, garlic, and herb affair, a beautiful pasta sauce can be made from blitzing roasted vegetables together. This recipe is one I have been playing around with: it’s more time-consuming than the other options, but the final product is well worth it.

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To serve two, you’ll need:

  • two red peppers
  • twenty plum tomatoes
  • one red onion
  • two cloves of garlic
  • chill flakes
  • balsamic vinegar
  • tomato puree
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • wholewheat spaghetti.

Begin by preheating the oven to gas mark 6, and slicing the red peppers. Drizzle in oil, arrange with plenty of space on baking trays, and intersperse with the tomatoes. Roast for 30-40 minutes, or until tender – you may need to switch your trays round to ensure even cooking.

Meanwhile, chop the onion and and cook gently for ten minutes, sprinkling with salt and a pinch of sugar. Add sliced garlic and cook for another three minutes, before adding a tablespoon of tomato puree, mixing well, and leaving for another minute. Pour in a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and simmer very gently for one minute.

Set up your food processor, and tip in the roasted vegetables, onions, and garlic, with a sprinkling of chilli flakes and seasoning. Blitz until smooth. Check seasoning, adding more sugar or balsamic if you want it sweeter.

Set the spaghetti on to cook, with spinach in a steamer for some complementary greens. Mix the pasta and sauce and warm in the pan. Serve with the spinach, and enjoy!

Chickpea and spinach curry

Although it’s June, British weather keeps us forever in thrall of its impetuous decision-making and rash promises. On days like today, when it’s rained consistently for hours on end, a hot bowl of curry provides a dose of relief from the glum skies and damp pavements. Here, chickpeas pack a double-dose of heartiness to a big pile of happy-inducing rice, and the warm flavours almost make the rain disappear. This recipe is relatively simple to make, and is fantastic for batch cooking for busy weeknight dinners.

To serve two, you’ll need:

  • One red onion
  • Three cloves of garlic
  • One red chilli
  • Thumb-sized piece of ginger
  • 3/4 tsp each ground cumin, ground coriander, turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp fenugreek
  • One tin / carton of chickpeas (soaked and cooked from scratch, or use an organic variety if you’re able to, for plumper and softer pulses)
  • One tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 200ml coconut milk
  • 150g fresh spinach, or around eight frozen lumps
  • A handful of coriander

 

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Begin by finely chopping the onion and leaving to cook gently for ten minutes on a low heat. Finely chop garlic, ginger, and chilli before adding to the pan and frying for one minute. Add the spices and fry briefly before tipping in the tomatoes. Stir everything well and simmer for fifteen minutes.

Add the coconut milk (please choose full-fat – it tastes so much better) and the rinsed chickpeas. Season, and leave to simmer for another ten to fifteen minutes.

Put on your choice of rice to cook (I will always choose the texture and nutritious benefit of brown), and if using frozen spinach, pop this into a steamer. After ten minutes or so, press down on the cooked spinach to squeeze out excess liquid. Tip the spinach into the sauce, and use your spatula or spoon and a fork to separate the clumps of spinach out.

Serve the curry over rice, garnishing with a handful of coriander. Enjoy!